An entertaining page-turner, perfect for a young fantasy fan.

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THE ANCILLARY'S MARK

Indebted to classic fantasy novels, a sweet story of good’s triumph over evil for young adult readers.

Jacob Deer is a bookish 18-year-old who only has one plan for the summer before beginning college in the fall: to lounge and spend his days immersed in books. When Mr. Maddock, an aging librarian and father figure to Jacob, reads a newspaper article about startling technological discoveries taking place in Tanki Lowbei, a remote, rural Tibetan town, he immediately suspects that the townspeople are under the influence of the mythical Ancillary, a small blue flower believed to offer limitless knowledge, the ability to harness one’s potential and the capacity to fulfill one’s destiny. The Ancillary is the stuff of ancient legends; most people do not know about it and those that do, like Mr. Maddock, have never seen it with their own eyes. The flower petals are believed to be marked with dots that form a circle-within-a-diamond motif: the very same shape of a birthmark on Jacob’s hand. Much like The Hobbit, the novel follows Jacob’s quest, prompted by Mr. Maddock, as he attempts to find the Ancillary and receive its powers. Episodic in structure, with almost every chapter offering an account of a challenge in which Jacob must apply his wits and commonsense to overcome obstacles, the story picks up the pace only after moving past an off-putting prologue that distracts and discourages the reader from slipping into the adventure. Cohen plays it safe and does not stray from the traditional traits of the fantasy novel; in doing so, what results is a thoughtfully constructed but predictable story. He makes certain to provide Jacob with an evil opponent in Marrow, a new friendly sidekick in Clark and the requisite love interest in the beautiful Sophia. And while the characters are distinctly different and have clear motivations, their personalities lack any real complication or nuance—what you see is what you get. That said, these weaknesses are not fatal; Cohen should be lauded for finding a way to weave myth into the story without making it feel heavy handed and for offering young readers a story that moves along at an engaging clip in a very readable style while underscoring a message about the potential within all of us.

An entertaining page-turner, perfect for a young fantasy fan.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-1935605768

Page Count: 245

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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